From the beginning, the Iraq War was a horrible idea. It was the product of post-9/11 hysteria in America, which spread to many in Britain, notably Tony Blair, as the Chilcot report on the war, released Wednesday, pointed out to the roars of vindication and vengeance from much of the country.
But even though it was a horrible war, two weeks after it began something very good happened: Saddam Hussein, his sadistic sons Uday and Qusay, and the rest of his Nazi-like regime ran for the hills. One of the most murderous, demonic governments in modern history was kicked out for good.
Why can’t the tens of millions of people screaming for Blair’s head today, like the billions who’ve been screaming for his and George W. Bush’s heads for years, acknowledge that ridding Iraq of Saddam was a great achievement?
It didn’t make up for the horrors of the war – hundreds of thousands of people killed, millions turned into refugees, a country of over 30 million devastated, with the killing and chaos still going on 13 years later, spreading into Syria and spawning ISIS, and with no end in sight. But that doesn’t change the fact that Saddam Hussein and his regime are history; that the Iraqi governments which followed, whatever their faults, have been an infinite improvement, operating in a whole different moral universe from the one Saddam inhabited; and that this is all thanks to Bush, Blair and the U.S., British and other allied soldiers who fought the Iraq War.
That’s just a fact. And an obviously important one. Without appreciating it, how can you try to understand the Middle East and the West today, how can you make an honest judgment today on matters of war and peace?
Ask the Kurds their opinion
There’s one other historic achievement of the war, also overlooked by Blair’s and Bush’s fiercest opponents: freedom and independence for over 5 million long-suffering Kurds. Iraqi Kurdistan has become a model for the Middle East. And the Kurds are the most deserving people in the world, as the Peshmerga forces are reminding everyone with their incredible bravery against ISIS.
Tom Robinson, head of an NGO that aids refugees in Kurdistan, just wrote this in the International Business Times:
As an old Kurdish Peshmerga fighter on the Bashiqa front line overlooking Mosul told me recently: “Amrika good, Britania good!” On any front line of the current war against Islamic State (Isis) these are often the only words, complimented with a strong thumbs up, that a Brit such as myself may hear in English. For those that serve in the Peshmerga, the UK has been a source of strength and support. Over the years I have made many friends, from privates to generals who have only ever had a positive reaction to my own admission to being British.
Why do the Left and the isolationist Right put the creation of Iraqi Kurdistan and the ouster of Saddam out of their minds when judging the war, Bush and Blair?
The question of motive
Also, why do they find it impossible to believe that Bush and Blair, as misguided as they were, as blind and reckless as they were, had a decent motive for fighting the war: the desire to protect their countries from jihadists? Here’s one of the things Blair said in his press conference on Wednesday; what’s so improbable about it?
I ask people to put themselves in my shoes as Prime Minister – back then barely a year from 9/11, in late 2002 and early 2003 you’re seeing the intelligence mount up on WMD, you’re doing so in the changed context of mass casualties . . . you have at least to consider the possibility of a 9/11 where in Britain and your primary responsibility is to protect your country. These were my considerations at the time . . .
The Iraq War never should have been fought, the human cost has been far too great – but it was a mistake, a mistake born of excessive fear followed by excessive self-confidence; it was not an immoral war. Masses of Iraqis really did cheer the American soldiers when Saddam fell. Why wouldn’t they? Millions upon millions of Iraqis had been his victims.
Saddam was not Ho Chi Minh or Mohammed Mossadegh or Salvador Allende. Multitudes of decent Iraqis supported the war to get rid of their tormentor. Many of course turned against it when just about everything – as widely predicted – went wrong. But that doesn’t mean the war was evil. And it doesn’t mean that nothing good came out of it. Acknowledging that may get in the way of a good hate fix off of Bush and Blair, but it still should be acknowledged.